06/05/2015 by Zest Books no comments
Here at Zest, we thrive on publishing books not only of interest to teens but books that speak into their lives in thoughtful and crucial ways. That’s why we published an introduction to sex defined by its honesty and straightforward tone. It’s also why we published a new edition of that book. The basics of sex maybe don’t change much in a few years, but the environments sure do. How and where teens encounter sexuality is drastically different now than it was even five or ten years ago.
We sat down with Nikol Hasler, author of Sex: An Uncensored Introduction, to discuss these changes in our culture, where parents are making mistakes, and why a little bit of humor helps.
Zest: Our culture has some serious hang-ups when it comes to talking honestly and openly about sex. Why do you think this is, and how does your book challenge these taboos?
Nikol: Someone decided a long time ago that sex was shameful. If I had a time machine I would have a talk with that person. But my guess is we’re uncomfortable because it’s a weird thing we do with our bodies (usually) in private, and we don’t really understand it all that well. So, we do what people tend to do with things they don’t understand: fear it. It’s damaging, because the more we fear sex, the more we’ll have issues with sexuality, which can result in hate crimes, suicides, unplanned pregnancies, and diseases.
Also, can you imagine what we could get done if we didn’t have to waste so much time worrying about sex?
I think Sex: An Uncensored Introduction just lays things out in a straightforward manner. There’s logic behind it, and I speak with the same openness about kinks as I do about nipple hair.
Zest: How would you encourage parents to talk to their kids about sex?
Nikol: When parents don’t talk to their kids about sex, I yell really loudly, “Hey, why aren’t you guys talking about sex? Do you want me to do it? Because I will.” Um. I guess the thing parents should remember when talking to their kids about sex is that it’s everywhere around them. From a very early age, both in nature and in things like entertainment and marketing, sex is present. All of those things are an opportunity to start a discussion. If you start those smaller discussions throughout their upbringing as nonchalantly as you’d talk about anything else, you can save yourself from a painful, uncomfortable long “talk” with a lot of throat clearing.
Zest: What makes you such an expert?
Nikol: I had sex a few times. Bing, bang, boom. Next question.
A long time ago I became fascinated with human behavior as it related to sex and sexuality. I grew up in unhealthy situations, but I had a sense that much of what was happening wasn’t okay. Once I grew up and went through a lot of dumb situations of my own, I somehow became the kind of person that a lot of people would talk to about relationships and sex. From there, I started doing a web series. Once that took off, I realized people were listening to me and I absolutely needed to get my information correct. There’s a lot I learned, and I made sure to research all the information I provided to be sure I wasn’t just spitting out nonsense.
Also, I am very, very, very, very smart. Take my word for it.
Zest: Your kids were younger when this first came out. They’re teens now. Has the way you talk to them about sex changed?
Nikol: I started talking to them about sex and sexuality from a fairly early age. It wasn’t until they became teenagers that I realized talking to your own teens about sex, especially with specifics, is really damn uncomfortable. We can talk about other kids they go to school with or sex in society much easier than we can talk about it in personal terms. Good thing we have shelves full of books on the subject.
Zest: Is there anything in this book you wish you’d known as a teen?
Nikol: As much as having access to such factual information, I think I would have liked to have had a book with this kind of the tone. There is an understanding in the book that all this stuff is confusing, sometimes difficult, and that it’s okay to be confused because other people are too. I hope reading Sex is a lot like talking to your older sister about this stuff.
Nikol: Well, there are the classics: body image, love, trying to understand your sexuality as your body seems to be spazzing out. But, since there is more openness around transgender and queer issues, that’s coming up more for teens. There’s also so much porn! And so many opportunities to talk to all kinds of people online. And so many more opportunities to have what should be very private moments made public. Even dating is a lot harder now that the whole world can watch you have a meltdown over a break up. But, I think we’re in a fantastic time right now when it comes to sex information and education. Being knowledgeable about sex is pretty cool.
Zest: This book is often witty. Why did you choose to include humor?
Nikol: When I was a kid I went through a lot of heavy stuff. From a young age, I developed some very important defense mechanisms. One of those was humor. Since this book was written in the same tone I regularly use when speaking, there were bound to be some jokes. I reined it in a lot, because I often feel like it’s only sometimes obvious when I’m kidding. Plus, I didn’t even make a single poop joke in this whole book. So, that was my greatest accomplishment in the process. I have been making up for it by making at least three poop jokes a day since.
Zest: What can we expect from this new edition?
Nikol: Pages, words, and all that usual book stuff. And an AOL CD that gives you free internet for a day! Actually, that’s not true. There’s no free internet in the book. However, there is a new chapter about the internet. Because even though the basics of sex don’t change that much over short bursts of time, the environments of sex can change drastically within just months. Tinder, enough said?
We were also able to update tons of information and sift through the book improving all kinds of things. So check out Sex: An Uncensored Introduction!
Nikol Hasler is the former host and writer of the web series The Midwest Teen Sex Show. She has written a weekly advice column “Love, Sex, Etc.,” for Milwaukee Magazine and other publications and has given talks and facilitated workshops about sex education at high schools and colleges and via online forums.Hasler is currently the Project Manager of the Digital Department at KCET in Los Angeles, California.